Massachusetts Senate Bill No. 1059, “An Act to Clarify the Law Protecting Employee Compensation,” became law on April 14, 2008 (2008 Mass. Acts c. 80). The law directs the courts to triple the damages for violations of state wage and hour laws and award successful plaintiffs their litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. This requirement of treble damages applies to any wage and hour violation – both intentional and unintentional. Although Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recommended that the bill be amended to allow judges some discretion if employers could prove they had acted in good faith, the legislature rejected the proposed change, leaving employers with no defense to the treble damages.
The legislation takes effect on July 13, 2008. Whether it will apply retroactively remains to be seen. The new law’s mandatory treble damages will increase wage and hour lawsuits brought against Massachusetts employers and may make Massachusetts a preferred venue for employees bringing actions with any connection to the state.
Employers should therefore carefully examine their compliance with the wage and hour laws and review all company policies and practices to ensure conformity with state requirements.